Old Fact pulling gets me to the park New Fact pulling doesnt get me to the park

So, all of that time you were letting yourself be dragged along, you were actually teaching him to pull you! Please realize that to successfully re-train him not to pull, you can't train some of the time & let him pull the rest of the time. You HAVE to make the committment to only train the behavior you prefer! At the bottom of the page I have some advice for how to get places while you are still working on this.

Ready to start? Get yourself ready - have a whole bunch of tiny treats (or one really big treat he can nibble) and a good leash. I recommend a short one (4 - 6') that is comfortable to hold. Put the Flexi-leashes away for now. Have the treats in the hand next to the dog. Hold the leash in your other hand, gathered up so that there is just a bit of slack. It is very important that it not be tight.

Okay, now start out with your dog sitting or standing at your side. Use a treat to lure him around to that position if needed. Let him see the treats you are holding in your hand.Say his name once to get his attention, then step off, praising happily. Take JUST 1-2 steps, then pause in mid stride to deliver a treat. (We no longer have people use the clicker for this in class - it was difficult for many people to coordinate everything, and we found that the dogs pick this up very easily without the clicker.)

Wait just long enough for him to gobble down the treat, then take 2 more steps and give another treat. Be sure that you are getting the treat to the dog quickly, so that he is still by your side when he gets it. If he runs out in front, then lure him back to your side before giving him the treat. CAUTION!! Don't go more than 2 steps for now! You must hold your dog's attention for this to work and that is so much easier for only 2 steps. Be sure to praise enthusiastically the entire time he at your side! If you need to turn around, then lure your dog around by holding a treat right in front of his nose, make the turn, pause to give the treat, then move on. However - be careful to only use the luring on the about turns and when you have to go past any distractions your dog isn't ready for. Otherwise, when you are walking you must keep the treats away from the dog's nose. He should NOT be walking along, simply staring at a treat you are dangling. So, when you are moving forward, a few steps at a time, keep your treat hand up by your waist.

If at any point he runs ahead, then lure him back before stepping off again. If this is happening often, then you need to take fewer steps before delivering a treat. Also try to walk quickly and praise - both of those things will go a long way towards keeping your dog's focus on you.

If you have a very small dog or puppy, you might find it gets old bending down to deliver the treat. You can try using a long wooden spoon dipped in peanut butter or soft cheese. You just hold it up and out of the way while walking, then dip it down so your dog just has to reach up a bit for a quick lick before you continue on. Thanks to trainer Patty Ruzzo for sharing that tip - one of her own students thought of it!

When your dog is consistently walking nicely for 2 steps, then begin requiring more. 4 steps, then 6 steps, etc. before you pause to treat. Keep it fun - make a lot of turns and circles.

It is essential that you use good enough treats, work in a distraction-free area at first, and that you praise the WHOLE time you are pleased with your dog's behavior. You cannot praise enough! Usually a happy, high pitched voice works well. Try to sound a little silly! If you become quiet, you are likely to lose your dog's attention. You are competing against the entire environment for his attention so you had better be pretty darn interesting! It is far, far easier to capture his attention before you start out & keep it than to try to capture it back again & again.

Sara is ready to practice Sara steps off, after getting Sara & Sugar walking walking - treats in the hand Sugar's attention nicely

NEXT to the the dog

Sara is starting to Beautiful walking! deliver the treat

Troubleshooting - is your dog basically staying at your side but jumping up as he walks? Just ignore that at first - consider it sloppy walking that is good enough for now. As you get your coordination down you will be able to start walking at a much brisker pace which usually eliminates the jumping. If it doesn't, however, once the dog is consistently walking at your side (albeit jumping while doing it), you can begin shaping his behavior by no longer stopping to treat when he is doing the jumping thing. To get a treat, he will need to take at least a couple of steps without jumping.

When you are up to 10 steps or so, it is time to start being variable! From now on, don't just go more & more steps before treating or your dog is likely to lose interest. Instead, work on greater distances variably, throwing in some really short walks now & then (e.g. Go 10 steps, treat, then 12, then 8, then 15, then perhaps just 3. Then 13, 18, 20, 24, 19, 4,

23, 25, etc. Of course, you are still praising the entire time you are moving & then pausing to treat.)

Eventually you will be ready to work around distractions, although don't rush this! You want your dog to be successful - keep it easy for him. When you are ready, start out with very mild distractions (other people across the street or watching, etc.) and work slowly up to better ones (other dogs around, first far away then closer). Whenever you work in a new place or with a new distraction, be prepared to use really high potency treats and to go back to just a couple of steps at a time as a warm up.

The Automatic Sit - would you like your dog to sit nicely, in heel ¡position, whenever you stop without even being asked? That is the utomatic Sit. To teach this (I would wait until you are up to at least 8 Isteps or so) simply take a a couple slower, smaller steps before you stop,

and as you take the last steps use a treat in your hand to lure him up into | a sit. Give a treat. No verbal command is needed. When he is starting to sit promptly for his treat, then test it - slow down into a stop and wait If he does sit (he may need to think about it for a few moments - be patient!!) then treat, giving a jackpot! If he doesn't sit, then continue walking for a few steps and try again. If that happens several times in a row perhaps you need to continue luring him on the sit a few more times to help him know what is expected. Don't worry if the sits aren't perfectly straight at first - you can shape them into being more precise later if you like. When you do stop, be sure to stand up straight & bring both feet together. This will help your dog to distinguish a true "halt" (when he should sit) from a pause for a treat (when you are in mid stride and likely leaning over a little bit). Be careful not to rely on the lure very long for the sit (or anything else, for that matter) or you will be stuck with it. You also want to be sure to continue to treat actual walking as well as when you stop & he sits.

Need a way to walk your dog during the time it takes to teach Loose Leash Walking? I recommend a special harness called Easy Walk by the Premier Company (ask for it at pet supply stores) or order from JB Pet Supplies from the image link below. This harness is an instant cure (but it only works when on).What is different about this harness is that the leash clips in front of the harness (for safety & comfort, also clip it to the collar). When the dog starts to pull, the harness actually starts to turn him towards you, very effectively ending the pulling. For those of you who are using prong (or "pinch") collars, you will find that the Easy Walk harnesses are far more effective!

Even with a dog who normally walks very nicely next to me, there are times when I really need to be sure, such as in my vet's waiting room. On those occasions, I will usually have a juicy treat & just lure my dog into the office. That keeps her focused on me instead of on the other waiting pets.

Lastly, what about that Flexi-leads? Hang onto it for when your dog is older and has the whole walking nicely thing down pat. They can be a lot of fun at the park, in areas where there aren't other dogs around to get tangled in it.

Happy Walking!

The Recall

The Recall is one of the most important commands, yet, it is the one that is often the most unreliable. Many puppy owners notice happily that their puppy always (or almost always) seems to come when called, so they think they have that one covered & train no further for it. However, just about every young puppy naturally hangs about the leader and comes easily - it's a survival thing. But when they hit adolescence? Suddenly, the rest of the world is a whole lot more interesting than you are!

You might be surprised to learn that you have already begun training for the recall when you did all of that attention work. Now, the second step is the most fun of all. You simply play recall games with your dog! We call the first one "Puppy in the Middle." You'll need another person for this, a buckle collar (which means a regular one, not a prong or choke of any kind) on the dog, and a bag of treats for each person.

Person 'A' kneels & holds the dog gently by the collar and pets him. Person 'B' kneels down about 6' away and calls the dog. He should say his name first & then the command (use whatever you have been using at this point, perhaps "C'mon".) If the dog comes, then Person B takes hold of his collar & makes a big fuss over him - praise & treats & pats. If the pup is too interested in Person A to respond to Person B, then Person B gets up, walks over to pup, shows him the terrific treat he had, and essentially lures him over to where he called him from. After the pup is with Person B, Person A calls him. Then Person B calls him. Back & forth, back & forth. This is a game - so keep it fun!! Be sure to hold onto his collar until the other person calls but it's okay (in fact, desired) if he is straining to go! Keep the game sessions short & fun but play it frequently! Several times a day if possible. When the pup has the concept, begin moving farther apart. Stay in his sight for quite awhile, but eventually this game turns into Hide & Seek. At that point you should also add all other family members, each with a bag of treats (just work out something so 2 people don't call the pup at once!). A really good idea is to give your dog his dinner this way. Simply divide his food amongst yourselves & play the game until it is gone.

Troubleshooting - don't have anyone else to help out with the games? You can play them by yourself - just drop a few small treats on the floor and when your dog is busy gobbling them up walk 6' away then call him. Then put more treats on the floor & walk away again, etc.

As well as playing this game, start calling your dog lots in the house (or anywhere where he isn't faced with much distraction. You don't want to overstrain that new muscle & damage it, do you?) Always call when you are sure he will respond - like at dinnertime! Call him for no reason other than to give him a treat and then let him go. You want to instill in him the belief that Coming When Called is always a WONDERFUL THING!! Many people make the mistake of, without thinking about it, turning the Come command into a negative thing for the dog. If you use it mostly to bring him inside when he was playing, or when you are ready to leave the park & go home, then that word, to the dog, means The End of Fun. You want them to think it is the best possible word he could possibly hear in his day. So... never never never call your dog over for anything unpleasant (like bath time) or to end anything really fun (like playtime in the park.) Eventually you will be able to use the command in the park, as needed, (because by then he will think that coming over to you IS a pleasant thing) but don't ever go back to calling him for a negative thing. Go get him for bath time!

Play the Puppy in the Middle games for a week or two before beginning the next steps. However, you need to continue playing those games for quite a while - in a variety of places - as the game is what is really doing the training.

So far, you have been playing the games using your "Informal" recall command. Now your dog is going to learn a "Formal" command. The difference? The informal one (let's say "C'mon") is used when the response doesn't have to be immediate. Maybe the dog is on the backyard & it's dinnertime. It's okay with you if he takes another sniff or piddle on his way in. That's when you use the informal command. You may also repeat this one since it is no big deal. But now, you will need to choose a formal command. I like COME ("Sugar Bear - Come!") but if that is already your informal one then you'll need to choose another. COME NOW is good, or TO ME, or FRONT... whatever you like!

Practice the Recall with your formal command at this point ONLY when you are totally sure of the correct response. Good opportunities are at dinner time & when playing the games (start out with the informal command to warm him up, then switch to the formal one once he's really going). Bad times would be anytime when there are distracting things around such as in the backyard or in the park. You really need to wait until the behavior is strong enough for those. Otherwise, every time you call him & do not get the correct response, you are actually diminishing the strength of the command.

Also important is prolonging your dog's pleasure in having responded to you. So don't just toss him & treat & walk away. Sit down with him & break that treat into many little pieces & give them one by one. And save something absolutely wonderful for this exercise - leftover steak, perhaps? Or have his favorite toy instead (perhaps a ball or rope toy or a Frisbee) and spend several minutes (at least) playing with him.

While working at home, it's important to start being very variable with the treats/reinforcements, but still keeping them amazing. And although you initially let the dog know that you had a treat before calling him, you need to phase that out. Call him often in the house, then RUN to get a treat (or toy) from another location! This will prevent him looking to see if you have a treat before responding. You want the response to be instant!

In higher level classes we really up the distraction level to include another person kneeling on the ground about halfway between the dog & the owner. As the dog races by, this person distracts (either by just being there, by calling "puppy, puppy", or by holding out a treat - all depends on what each dog is ready for). Then we include the rest of the class as eveyone lines up about 10' across from each other (dogs included) and one person & her dog practice the recall running down the middle, first with just the distraction of the other dogs & people, then with the people calling, "Puppy, puppy!", then with the people offering treats & calling as the dog races by. Of course, if the dog were ever to try to take a treat from one of the distracters, she must be sure to not ever let him have one!

You can also really strengthen your dog's Recall by practicing it at the park, even around the rest of the dog pack that he might be playing with. First, be prepared with incredible treats and/or toys. Then when he is playing, walk right up to him, stick your treat/toy right under his nose & call him "Max, COME!" while you move backwards 6' or so, luring him along while praising the whole time, then giving him the treat. Do this frequently! Eventually you will be able to start farther & farther away from him. But do be sure to practice it often so he associates the word "COME!" with terrific things, even at the dog park. Many dogs will start to "check in" on their own which should of course be encouraged witha treat! When you are finally ready to go home, he won't be sorry to hear that word since he won't think it means leaving his friends.

Now, a bit more detail about the two different commands. The formal command is used when the dog must come straight to you right away! Eventually it is also helpful to have him sit upon reaching you but only after the recall is 100%. You may NOT repeat this command! Therefore, don't ever use it until you are sure of it. Practice it inside or on a long leash outside. Use the formal command when playing the games from now one if he is reliable with them. Use it at dinner time! Any other time, use the informal command. It's freezing rain outside and you are not inclined to go get him if he doesn't respond? Then don't use the formal command. Of course, over time & with practice the formal command should become very solid. THIS is the command you will then use in an emergency... dog takes off after a squirrel and is heading for the street... "Max, COME!". And if you spent enough time strengthening his response with the distraction training, Max will indeed spin around & come to you! Be sure to practice plenty of fun recalls -both formal & informal.

Happy recalling!

Teaching Your Dog to Wait

The Wait command tells your dog that he must not move past a spot. It is particularly useful for dogs that barge through doors, gates, crate doors, etc.

I will explain how to teach a puppy not to barge out of his crate - once you understand this it should be easy to adapt the behavior to whatever situation you like. This is one behavior where I actually don't use the clicker as it is easy enough for the dog to understand.

Okay, say you are going to get your pup out of his crate (please don't try to teach this when she is desperate to go out & relieve herself!) You start to open the crate door & she starts to push through, so you instantly SHUT THE CRATE DOOR. Let her stand there a moment and be confused, When she relaxes (or isn't trying to get out), then start to open the door again. She barges, again quickly shut it. After a while she should start to give up on trying to rush out, and sit there while you open the door. At first, don't expect much -if she holds it for a moment, quickly open the door, saying "Okay!" and let her out. Eventually, however, you want her to show more & more self-control. You should be able to get the door all the way open and have her wait in there, until you release her to come out.

Practicing this with front doors, gates, and car doors could could save your dog's life someday!

Happy Waiting!!

Nail Clipping

This lesson is for anyone who has a dog that puts up a fight to have his nails clipped. You are going to condition him to actually be happy (or, at least tolerant) when those clippers come out, because you are going to desensitize him to them, and use classical conditioning to make him start to drool when he sees them. Yes, it will take a little time to do, but if you count up all the minutes spent fighting with a dog over nail clipping, in the long run you will save hours & hours.

I'm going to use, as an example, a dog who is upset upon even seeing the clippers. Those of you with less of a problem may be able to skip the first few steps. But they wouldn't hurt!

First, just bring out the clippers and lay them down. Do nothing with them, just let them lie there. Have them in a spot where the dog can't help but notice. Leave them out for a few days so the mere sight of them is no longer so upsetting.

Next step is to get him to touch them! Bring the clippers over, lay them down near your dog, and lay several pieces of the best imaginable treat down near them. Please forget even using any commercial treat - save some of your roast beef for this. It also helps if your dog hasn't had dinner yet, so the treats are all the more tempting. Relax and let him think about it - most dogs will go get the treats. If yours won't, then move them farther away until he will. Repeat this, getting closer & closer each time until you are placing the treats directly on the clippers.

Now, sit down near the clippers & have your dog sit near you, too. Point at the clippers and say "touch." (This will be easier if you have taught the Targeting lesson). You might have to hold a treat on the clippers to get an accidental touch at first. But when he touches it (accidentally or not), C&T, giving a jackpot & praise enthusiastically. Repeat again & again, until he is readily reaching out to touch the clippers for you.

The next step is to get him to accept having his nails touched by the clippers. Notice I said touch - not clip. That comes later. Sit down and have your dog lie down next to you. Have really good treats in your hand or a handy bowl (an assistant to give the treats is very helpful here). Slowly bring the clippers over to one of his front paws and gently touch one nail with them. If he yanks his paw out of the way, tell him "Too bad" and look away for a few moments. Let him be bummed out for a minute about the lost opportunity for an extraordinary treat. Then try again. When he finally holds still for one nail to be touched, C&T! Do again & again until he understands what his job is (to hold steady). If he really has a hard time not pulling his paw away, don't reward for that. Instead, C&T if you can get, say, within a couple of inches. And slowly get closer & closer until you are actually touching the nail. Practice with this for a few sessions. One nail touch - C&T. Another nail touch - C&T. When that is no longer a big deal, then do two nail touches -C&T. Then 3 nail touches - C&T. Whenever he has mastered a step, you "up the ante" by requiring more from him in order to earn his treat.

When you can touch all the nails in his paw before giving a treat, he is ready for actual clipping. However, be sure that he is accepting the touching on all four of his paws! Keep sessions short, especially for a young puppy. Do one foot, give the treat then go play. Later do another, etc. You progress with actual nail clipping as you did with the touching. Snip a teeny bit of one nail - C&T (if he holds steady). And slowly up the ante until you can clip an entire pawful of nails before giving a treat. My friend Susan was having to sit on her puppy to clip his nails. A few days of this (several sessions per day), and now he offers his paw to her when he sees the clippers! My thanks to her for coming up with this step-by-step way of doing the desensitization.

It is usually best to trim your dog's nails just a little bit about once a week to keep them short. If you allow them to grow long, the quick (the tender part inside) actually grows longer & you will be stuck with long nails that are noisy & can cause physical problems for the dog if they are extreme. If you are really unsure which part of the nail to clip, please ask your vet to show you (preferably on a dog that is relaxed!).

Remember to take it slowly - let your dog tell you by his acceptance when to progress to the next step.

Other tricks to try include having a helper rub his belly (if he likes that, of course) while you are clipping. I am also having great luck using a nail grinder which you can get from

Happy clipping!

Leave It!

This is not a competition exercise - this is for when you are going for a walk, and realize that your dog is making a beeline for something truly disgusting. You tell him "Leave it!" and he does so. Also works for telling your dog to get away from something else such as a plate of food on the table, or for when you drop something on the ground you really don't want him to have. I even know a a dog that will respond to "Leave it" when his owner wants him to move away from another dog! This is an essential behavior for any dogs who will be doing therapy work.

Okay - get yourself ready. Have a bunch of little treats - some really tasty ones & some so-so ones (I'll use hot dog slices & Cheerios as an example).

Have a couple of Cheerios in one hand which will be the "Leave it" hand (to begin with, anyway) and a hot dog slice in your other hand (your "Get it" hand). Hold out your first hand, open to show the Cheerios. Your dog will, of course, start to reach for them. Say "Leave it!" and close your hand. However, keep the hand down at his level - don't yank it away, just close it into a soft fist. He will probably lick & nibble at your hand, trying to get the Cheerios. When he gives up & pulls his head back you need to immediately say "YES!" & then say "Get it!" and offer the much tastier hot dog from your right hand.

Sara has boring treats (dry Sugar has been told to "Leave And now Sara gives her a popcorn) in her "Leave it" it!" for the popcorn and is piece of salami hand, and tasty treats doing so - time for Sara to say

(salami) in her "Get it" hand "Yes!"

Sara has boring treats (dry Sugar has been told to "Leave And now Sara gives her a popcorn) in her "Leave it" it!" for the popcorn and is piece of salami hand, and tasty treats doing so - time for Sara to say

(salami) in her "Get it" hand "Yes!"

Wondering where the clicker fits in? Well, it's pretty difficult to use if you have treats in both hands. If you can manage it (or have an assistant to do the clicking), click the instant he quits trying for the Leave it treat & then offer the Get it treat with "Get it!" This is actually a great example of when it sometimes good to use a Bridge Word ("Yes!") instead of a clicker.

Keep doing this until he is no longer trying for the treat from your Leave it hand. Then... switch hands! Expect to him to about start over at first, but then quickly figure out what is going on. (Ahhh... it's not which hand it's in, it's what she's saying first! Eureka!")

At this point, you want to start requiring that your dog not only "leave it," but look up at you before you say "Yes!" and "Get it." To do that, just do what you have been, but after your dog moves away from the leave it hand, just wait until he looks up at you, then immediately say "Yes!" and "Get it." If he takes too long to look up, then say his name to get his attention, and reward that.

Next progression would be to set a treat onto the floor and say "Leave it." Reward with a jackpot if he does! Be prepared to step on it (use a dry treat here so it doesn't get smooshed!) to cover it if he doesn't. In that case, just try again. When that is going well, actually drop a treat on the ground, at first just from a few inches off of the ground, then gradually higher.

Note - Try to usually have much better treat in your "get it" hand than what you are making him "leave it." However, make sure to practice this with some pretty high level treats as the Leave it treats as well! When the time comes when you are out in the park & he discovers a rotten frog carcass & starts drooling, you want him to respond to your "Leave it" command. He'll be amazed, thinking you actually have a treat better than rotten frog! Of course you won't (I hope!), but by then it'll be too late for your dog - you'll be past where the frog was. He'll be disappointed, but will survive. And certainly, you would lavish affection on him at that point, and give up any treats you might have on you.

Happy "leaving it"!

Advanced Training

Okay, so your pup is doing pretty darn well around the house, but how reponsive is he when company is over or when you are outisde? Having a dog that responds to you in those situations will require advanced training. He knows the basics, but can only perform in easy (i.e. non-distracting) situations. I like to use a weight-lifting analagy here: say you have been lifting weights, and do really well with 10 lbs. Then someone comes along and hands you 100 lbs. Can you lift it? Probably not. Does that make you stubborn, stupid, or disobedient? Of course not! It just means you haven't TRAINED for that kind of weight. So, please think of each behavior you have taught your dog in those terms... if you want him to respond in all situations, you must TRAIN in all situations. And, just as in weight training, that means adding on the weights (or distractions) a little at a time.

I am going to give some general advice, then, about distraction training. You will need to adapt all of this to your own dog and situation, but I have found these to be pretty good "rules of thumb."

• Begin practicing in different, yet quiet locations. You may be surprised at what a difference that will make! Dogs really do see the location as part of the signal at first, so you may find that you may have to back up a few steps and practice simple behaviors at first. Eventually practice everywhere that you expect to have your dog. My personal challenge was bringing Sugar Bear to my kids' soccer and flag football games. It was extremely difficult for her at first! I found that it was better to leave her at home for the games, because I wanted to relax and watch my kids. But I would bring her to practices, have a pocketful of hot dog slices, and move as far away as I needed to go. It was hard work but it paid off - now I can bring her along and she is very relaxed and well-behaved. No more lunging for the ball as it rolls by!

• Begin adding mild distractions. You can control this in several ways - by controlling the intensisty of the distractions (i.e. someone walking by, versus someone running by) and control how close you are to the distraction.

• Have way better than usual treats.

• Expect less from your dog at first! Especially in situations where you really con't control the intensity or distance of the distraction, you might go all the way back to luring to get a behavior that your dog performs flawlessly for a simple signal at home. That's okay! Practice that for a bit, then fade the lure as you did before, working until he is a good as he is at home.

• And remember, you are training your dog every minute that you are with him (and sometimes even when you are not!) Be sure to consistently reinforce behaviors you like, and don't allow annoying (or dangerous!) behaviors to continue. Figure out HOW those behaviors are reinforcing to the dog. Is he getting lots of attention (even if it's negative, it counts as attention) for them? Is he getting internal reinforcement for them - such as the sheer joy of barking or chasing or picking a delicious tidbit out of the trashcan? Work to manage your household to prevent what you can (i.e. trashcan in the closet, dog on a leash) and train behaviors that you would prefer to take the place of ones you don't like. Just always keep in mind that your dog's behavior is 100% your responsibility, since you chose to bring him home. There's an old saying: A well-trained dog is a happy dog... and you will be a happier owner :)

back to the top How to be a Good (& effective) Leader

Although there is some discussion about whether dogs truly consider people as part of their "pack," I think everyone agrees that they do recognize - and respect - leadership.

Every group has a leader, and if the dog in the family senses that none of the humans is taking that role, they will likely rise to fill it. Along with the responsibilities of leadership comes that of discipline. And no human wants to be disciplined by a dog!

Being a good leader for your pet does not mean being rough. It does, however, mean being strong and confident; sure in what you do. Some people seem to act this way naturally, others need a little help. Below I've listed some of the things you can do which will help your dog recognize you as a leader. Your entire family should be familar with these rules and apply them consistently - especially children!

* Please note! If aggression is already a concern, then proceed very carefully! Best advice in that case is to get the help of an animal behaviorist who can work privately with you. Call your vet, local obedience schools, or animal shelters for recommendations. Be sure to hire someone who uses positive reinforcement methods!

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